My name is Jacob Phaltz, but almost everyone knows me as Jake. My parents emigrated from West Germany in 1979, well before the reunification of their home country. My mother was pregnant with me when they left and I was born here in Canada. They landed in Montréal and my father set about looking for work as a goldsmith. He was trained in Germany, and with his background he had little trouble finding a job. I was an only child for a while, but a couple of years later, my mother gave birth to my brother, Michael. Young Mike is quite an athlete, currently playing professional soccer with the Montréal Impact.
My father prospered in his trade and not long after Mike was born, he opened his own jewelry shop in the west end. He makes a good living for himself and my mother. They own a nice house in Beaconsfield and spend some time in Florida in the winter. Father has two talented goldsmiths working for him now, so he isn't tied to his shop every minute of every day. When I talk to Mom, I get the feeling she is very pleased and satisfied with their life. I'm happy for them.
I was an ordinary student in school, as much interested in girls and hockey as I was in my studies. I graduated with a C+ average, with my only really good grade in the English language. Fat lot of good that did me in Québec.
I immediately went out looking for a job. My spoken French was only adequate, while my written French was much better. It was a struggle to find a decent job with a future in French speaking Québec with the Parti Québécois running the show. They had little tolerance for Anglais, and I had problems finding meaningful employment.
I finally took a job with a Vancouver-based wholesale building materials company that was just setting up in Montréal. I worked on the customer service desk for a year before an opening came up in Vancouver. It was a bigger operation and paid more, so I put in my application.
I was surprised when I was accepted. I thought there would be a dog-fight for the job, but I learned later it was my French skills that tipped the scales. I never did figure out why that would be important in British Columbia.
I moved to Vancouver and immediately discovered I had found my future home. It was so completely different from Montréal, so much more modern and ... west coast! Everything seemed new. Of course, I landed there during a nice summer and that didn't hurt either.
One trip to the beaches and I was hooked. It might have been the bikinis, or it might have been the mountains, or maybe even the freighters anchored in the bay. I didn't care. This was where I wanted to be. I haven't changed my mind and I don't suppose I ever will.
I made some friends along the way. Some from work and some from the hockey games we played at the three-rink multiplex. I'd never played junior hockey but I loved the game, and since I was single and had lots of time, I joined a beer league.
Low and behold, I was a first line defenseman on an electrical company's team. It didn't take long to figure out it was because I could skate backwards. I didn't care. It was fun and something to do that kept me fit and occupied.
At the end of the season, we had an outdoor barbeque for the team and all the families and friends who had supported us. It was there that I met Judy Hansen. Judy and I hit it off because, like me, she was an Anglais from Montréal.
In her case, she was from Dollard-des-Ormeaux, just west of the airport at Dorval. We had lots to talk about and it got us off on the way to becoming a couple.
We exchanged numbers and I called her couple of days later and asked her for a date. She said yes, and that's how it all started. Judy is a good looking woman. Not a knock-out mind you, but still very attractive. I sneaked a look at her driver's license one day and found she was 170cm (5' 7") and 60 kilos (132 lbs.).
She has dark brown hair, cut short around her neck and she needs little to take care of it. She calls it her wash-and-wear hair. She doesn't wear a lot of makeup, but then in my opinion, she doesn't need to. She has a nice body, with medium sized breasts and a slim backside, plus great legs. When she wears slacks, she looks very elegant. She has excellent posture and it helps accentuate her good looks. She also looks good in a bikini.
Judy and I went out regularly and within a year, I proposed and she accepted, although not immediately. We had been discussing the future before I popped the question and it was obvious to me that she wanted some assurance that I was going to be something more than a customer service rep. I told her that I had asked for an opportunity in sales and had been promised a chance when the next vacancy came about. That seemed to satisfy her.
We had been having sex for a few months now, and Judy was an enthusiastic lover, although a bit conventional. She wasn't interested in giving oral sex, but she liked it when I gave it. I really couldn't complain. We were intimate several times a week and she appeared to be satisfied with my performance. Not wild monkey sex as you can probably gather, but I didn't think she was very experienced.
Judy worked at a laboratory that did medical testing for the private clinics around the province. She had trained hard to become a technician and she was very proud of her status. She liked the work and liked the people she worked with. They were all women except for their boss, Bob Turnbull.
When we planned our future life together, we sat down and looked at what our combined incomes would be. If I got the sales job, we would have close to ninety thousand dollars, not counting any bonuses I might earn. It might even allow us to buy a house in the red-hot market we were facing.
So Judy accepted my proposal, conditional on my getting the sales job. Happily, it came along a few months later and we set the date. I called my parents and my brother to tell them the good news, and they were very happy for me. Judy indicated her parents were a little more wary, but happy just the same. Both parents made plans to be at the wedding.
We were married in a small church in the suburbs that had time available the following April. I met Judy's family for the first time and I have to say, they were pretty cool toward me. I wondered why, but Judy dismissed my concerns. My folks were in good spirits and welcomed Judy to the family. But again, her parents didn't seem to warm to my folks either.
On the other hand, Judy seemed to be quite friendly with Mike. Perhaps because he was a professional athlete or maybe they just hit it off. At least it took some of the pressure off during the reception.
We went on a short honeymoon to Victoria and Seattle before coming home and settling down in our rented apartment. I was working hard to do well in my new sales job and so far, my boss was happy with my results. I had some objectives to reach this year and by mid-year, I was pretty sure I was going to achieve them.
Judy was happy to continue working in the lab. Her hours were more predictable than mine; seven-thirty am to four pm. Mine were irregular, often spending four or more hours on the road traveling from customer to customer, arriving home after six pm after battling heavy commuter traffic.
Life went along quite smoothly for us. We finally saved enough money to put a down payment on a townhouse in the suburbs and celebrated our third anniversary a week after we moved in. This would be our stepping-stone to a proper home someday in the future.
We talked about starting a family, but Judy was adamant that she didn't want to do that until we were more financially secure. She never was able to articulate just when that would be, but since we were both young, not yet twenty-five, there was no panic.
As with any marriage, things tended to slow down a bit in the sex department. Before we were married, we were having sex four or five times a week, except when she was having her period. That dropped to three times weekly after the first three years, and then as time went by, we were down to once or twice a week. When you're working hard, as I was, you don't notice these things right away, but after a while I did, and mentioned it to Judy.
"Judy, we don't seem to be making love as often as we used to. Is there any reason for that?" I started the conversation after supper one night when we were just sitting quietly on the back balcony of the townhouse.
"No. Why would there be?" The way she answered sounded strange to me. I suppose defensive, but a bit aggressive too.
"I don't know. We used to get together at least three times a week, but not lately."
"Well, we're both working hard and after all, you can't expect us to be full of energy every night." Again, I got that slightly aggressive tone.
"I suppose. But I do miss it. Making love to you is something I really enjoy." I was trying to make it sound inviting to her.
"You'll just have to get used to enjoying it a little less often for now. I'm not always in the mood, you know." I wasn't getting a very sympathetic hearing. I decided in the interests of peace that I wouldn't pursue the matter any further that night. But, it would get revisited.
Our lovemaking didn't decline any further and I eventually became accustomed to the reduced frequency, assuming that it was the pace that Judy found comfortable. I wanted more, but I had come to realize not all couples, regardless of how long they were together, would want the same things at the same time. When I came to think about it, I really couldn't complain. We seemed to be happy and successful, on our way to a long and fruitful marriage.
I suppose it's hard to imagine how a happily married man could have a best friend who was a woman, but it happened to me. What's more remarkable about it is the fact that there was no sexual connotation to our friendship. It really was a "best friends" relationship. It happened when Cindy and Al Willows moved in next door. Our townhouse was an end unit, so we only had one attached neighbour.
Cindy and Al proved to be an interesting, but different couple. She was a stay-at-home mom with two children in elementary school. Al was a car salesman at a local Chevrolet dealer. Cindy was a no-nonsense kind of gal with a wicked sense of humour, a quick mind, and a sharp tongue featuring some salty language. She was thirty years old and had been married to Al for ten years.
She was a bit taller than Judy, but she had a much more developed body. Her hair was reddish-blonde, curly and cut short. Her eyes were deep blue and she had beautiful white teeth when she laughed, which was often. Her complexion showed some scarring from acne, but she didn't seem self-conscious about it.
She freely admitted that Al had "knocked her up" and then did the honorable thing and married her. They had two children, Annabeth, the ten-year-old love child, now in grade five, and Bradley, a seven-year-old in grade two.
Al, or Alvin as Cindy occasionally called him when she was irritated with him, was the same age as Cindy, but a different personality. He was a bit less than six feet, with red curly hair, a ruddy complexion and big, white teeth. He dressed in flashy suits with brightly coloured ties, wearing a Rolex knock-off on his wrist and a large, gold ring with a red stone on his right pinkie. If someone had told him that this is what a car salesman should wear, Al must have believed him.
If you listened to him, you'd think he was general manager of the dealership instead of one of the rank-and-file salesmen. He was one of those guys that you either loved because he was always up, or who irritated the hell out of you because he never learned when to turn it off. Unfortunately, I was in the latter category.
Judy didn't have too high an opinion of Cindy, but seemed neutral toward Al. On the other hand, I liked the straightforward Cindy and we became quite good friends over the next few months. I also liked her kids. Annie, as she was mostly known, was polite and cute as a button. She would be a real heartbreaker in a few years. Her mother was a fine looking woman to start with, but Annie was going to be something special.
Brad was a fun-loving kid who loved to play and was always in good spirits. Like his sister, he was very polite and that goes a long way with me.
Judy, unfortunately, didn't want much to do with the kids. That worried me for our future. Was she sending me a message that she didn't want children? She couldn't help but like these two, could she? If we were going to have children, I wanted them to be just like Annie and Brad.
It was this past spring that things started to go downhill for us. We had just about saved enough to buy a house after six years of marriage. Without any warning, I was called into a meeting at headquarters and the entire staff was notified that the company had been sold to our competitor, and our branch would be closed.
Just like that, I was unemployed. I had four months severance plus we had our savings, but it was a shock and I was really knocked back.
When I told Judy what had happened, she got mad. Mad at me for wasting my years with a company that just disappeared. Mad at the company. Mad at life in general. I got the distinct impression she was disappointed in me. That I had let her down. That this was my fault. It didn't do my spirits any good to have that heaped on me.
I started looking right away of course, but there were no jobs locally in my field of expertise. Judy would get up, give me a remote peck on the cheek and head off to work. I would scour the want ads, try to arrange appointments, and drink more coffee than I was used to. After two fruitless weeks, I was depressed and I guess it showed. I was sitting on my bedroom balcony one morning, coffee in hand, staring into the distance when I heard a familiar voice.
"Hey, handsome, got any more of that coffee?"
It was Cindy and I had to smile. She had decided, for what ever reason, that I should be known as "Handsome" and freely called me that, even when Al and Judy were present. It didn't seem to upset either of them, so I just accepted the moniker.
"Come on over. The back door's unlocked. I'll meet you in the kitchen."
I was reaching for the cream when Cindy pranced through the back door into the kitchen and flashed me her best smile. Just seeing her do that helped lift my spirits.
"So what are you doing home in the middle of the morning these days? Sick leave?"
"I wish. I got let go the Friday before last. The company has been sold and the whole staff is out of work."
"Shit ... that stinks," she said. "So, I take it you're looking?"
"Yeah. Unfortunately, I was in a shrinking industry and it just shrunk a lot further. It's pretty much all I know, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I've got my résumé in at all the other places, but it doesn't look good. I can try at the retail level, but they don't pay anything like what I was earning."
"Huh," she muttered. Then I watched her as her mind started working. I knew Cindy well enough now that she had already taken on the responsibility of trying to help. It was interesting to see the contrast between Judy and Cindy's attitudes. I sat quietly, sipping my coffee as Cindy pondered.
"Jake ... remind me. When you were in school, what was your best subject?"
"English. I seemed to have a feel for it. I mean, writing. For a while I thought about being a writer. Maybe working on a newspaper or a magazine. Unfortunately, that's another industry that's getting smaller."
"Yeah. I thought you told me that. I have a girlfriend who's a writer. She writes manuals and instructions and things like that. She works from home. All she needs is a computer and an internet connection. She told me a while ago that she was turning down business because she was working so much. I don't know how much it pays, but she has a nice new Mazda and a fancy condo in the city. It must pay something."
"Hummphf. I'd never even though of that," I admitted.
"Tell you what, handsome. I'll give her a call if I can use your phone and you can talk to her. Maybe she can put you on to something."
"Great! Thank you, Cindy."
Her name was Paula Woods and I caught her just at the right time. When Cindy handed me the phone, I offered to call back later when she wasn't so busy, but she said she was taking a break, and since I was a friend of Cindy, she'd be happy to talk to me.
She had been in the same situation that I was in. Out of work and needing a job. She had answered an ad in one of the local papers and met with the manager of this import/export business. He needed someone to write manuals and instructions for imported products that came from China and other Far East countries. The English versions they were sending were useless, if not downright hilarious. He wanted a practical instruction sheet in English for his customers that would give them the right information. Paula signed on and has never looked back.
"They keep after me about finding someone who can translate into French, too. They're paying one of these translation services, but it's very expensive. He wants someone in-house to handle it. He can find bi-lingual people, but not writers. He needs both together. He's also in the machinery business and it's a real problem getting a decent owner's manual prepared. That's not something I can do."
Paula gave me the name of the agency that was importing the machines as well as the name of her contact. I asked if I could mention her name and she happily agreed. I turned the phone over to Cindy for the girls to have a quick chat while I poured myself and her another coffee.
"Cindy, you and Paula may just have saved my life. I don't know how to thank you."
"No need. It was fun to watch you light up again. You looked pretty down this morning."
"Yeah. Well, I don't think Judy has come to grips with our situation yet. She's not very happy with me being out of work. It really puts a crimp in our plans."
"Jesus, Jake! You didn't get fired. What happened to you happens to all kinds of people everyday. It isn't their fault. It's just the way things are right now. I don't know how many times Al has come home with a hang-dog look because he was down near the bottom of the totem pole that month, wondering if they were going to fire him. I'd give him a little pep-talk and a nice warm roll in the hay, and he's up and at 'em the next morning," she laughed.
"Sounds like a winning formula," I agreed. I was envious of Al that Cindy could handle a situation that way when Judy was so negative. No pep talk. No roll in the hay.
I picked up the phone again and called the number I had copied from Paula, and asked for Mr. Louie. He came on the line a minute later and I told him I had been talking to Paula Woods and she suggested I call him. I told him I could write French as well as compose copy fairly well and would be willing to give him a free sample to prove my point.
Mr. Louie, who spoke fairly good English, jumped at the chance, asking if I could meet him this afternoon. It just so happened I had the afternoon free and we arranged an appointment for two p.m. I hung up the phone and walked over to Cindy and gave her a big hug.
"You don't know how good this feels, Cindy." I damn near had tears in my eyes. I had a chance and I was going to grab it with both hands.
Cindy just grinned and sipped her coffee. "Glad to help."
Cindy headed back home just after eleven, and I whipped upstairs to shower, shave, and brush my teeth. I picked out a clean dress shirt, my navy blazer, and tan slacks, choosing to change after I'd made my lunch. No point in taking a chance on spilling food on my clean shirt or tie.
I met with Mr. Louie promptly at two that afternoon and he ushered me into his office. He was a balding, mid-fifties Asian man with bad teeth and a rumpled suit. I began to wonder if maybe he couldn't afford proper translation services, and was just looking for someone who worked cheap. On the other hand, Paula had said she was happy working with him, so the least I could do was to listen.
"I import many machines from China and Thailand. Some are for plastics manufacturing and some for molding containers. Others are for woodworking. The instructions they send are in Chinese and then someone has tried to translate them into English. Even I cannot tell what they are trying to explain. I have to read the Chinese to find out. My customers are usually not Chinese, so I need to have good English instructions.
"Now I want to sell to chain stores, and in Québec. I must have French instructions before they will take my products. I am paying very high prices for translation services, and then I have to go back more than once because they do not understand the machinery and how it functions. I need someone who can understand the equipment and the instructions." He finished and sat quietly, his fingers gabled in front of his chest.
"I understand your problem. The only thing I can suggest is that we give it a try and then, if I can do the work, we can work out a fee schedule that works for both of us. Agreed?"
"Yes. That is a good suggestion. I hope you can do this job. It would be very helpful to my business and I would make it worthwhile for you," he promised.
"Why don't you give me an example and we'll see how it goes. I can work here or I can take it home and bring it back tomorrow, or when I am done."
"I think you would find my computer difficult to use," he smiled. "I suggest you use your machine and let me know when you are finished. We can review the results then."
"Good. If you'll show me the instructions, I'll get going."
He walked to a side table and took a thin, multi-page folder off the top of a pile and handed it to me. "Come with me," he said.
He took me out into his warehouse and I was immediately surrounded by crates of equipment as well as open machinery sitting on the floor. It was all new and painted. Some pieces I recognized and others I did not.
"This is the machine that your instructions are for. Please look it over. If you have any questions, please ask."
I nodded as he stood by me while I compared the drawings on the manual with the actual machine. They looked identical, but appearances can be deceiving.
"How would you rate the accuracy of these drawings?" I asked him.
"Most of them are quite good. Occasionally, they will send old drawings with new machines and that causes much difficulty. Then I have to go back to the factory and wait for new drawings. I have machines on the floor that I have paid for which I cannot sell. Very bad for business."
"I can imagine. Well, this set of drawings looks pretty much like this machine, so I'll get started and if I run into problems, I'll call you. This first job is a free trial, as I said. I want to find out if I can do this job, and then find out if I can make a living at it."
He nodded with a smile. "A wise precaution."
I slid into my car and started for home. I was really up and fervently hoping this was going to turn out to be something worthwhile. It had nothing to do with my previous job, but on the surface it was so much more interesting. If I could make it work, I was sure I would be happier.
It didn't take long for Judy to pour cold water on it.
"What do you know about machinery? How can you possibly make any money out of this?"
"Well, I've talked to someone who already is making a living at it. She works from home most of the time, which is what I would like to be able to do."
"Oh, great. You sit around all day, drinking coffee while I work my butt off in the lab."
"Why do you think that? If I take the job, it's true I would be doing it here. It would also cut our expenses. No commuting. Seems to me, it would be a better situation for us."
"You're going to have to show me that you can earn a living, Jake. I have my doubts. It can't be that easy or everyone would be doing it."
"Well, keep in mind that I have a mechanical mind as well as some skills in writing. On top of that, I am bilingual, which isn't common in this part of the country. I think I've got a good chance, but I won't know until I try."
"How much is this guy paying you for this job?"
"Nothing. It's a freebie to show him I can do the job, and then I can figure out what my time is worth. If I set a price now it may be too low, and then I'll have a hell of a time getting it up to where it should be."
"Great. You work for nothing just to get a job you don't know if you can do, or how much it pays. Just great," she said, stomping out of the room toward the kitchen.
That really good feeling had just evaporated. Maybe it would come back when I proved that I could do the work and it paid well. Maybe.
I couldn't wait to get started and right after we finished the dinner dishes, I was off to our home office and onto the computer. I pulled out the English version of the instructions and began to read. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It was mangled so badly that any idea you could instruct someone on the maintenance and operation of this machine was a fantasy. I took a deep breath and began.
I quit at midnight when the oncoming headache reached its peak. My neck was stiff from attempting to understand what they were trying to say and then getting it down on the word processor. I had managed about a page and a half of the six page instructions. It was slow going, but gradually I was beginning to see a pattern developing. It took one hour just to do the first paragraph, while the last one I tackled took a little less than thirty minutes.
Judy had long since gone to bed when I finally turned out the light and headed off to our bedroom. I was sure I would sleep well, I could feel the fatigue from my concentrated effort, and after taking a couple of Tylenol, I slipped into our bed and almost instantly fell asleep.
When I awoke, Judy was already up and dressed, having her usual yoghurt and granola breakfast. She didn't drink coffee, so it was no surprise there was none made. I, on the other hand, was now a confirmed coffeeholic. At least until about eleven am, when I usually quit. I said good morning and she mumbled something that might have been similar. Two minutes later she was up, and after giving me her usual perfunctory peck on the cheek, she was on her way to work. I looked at the clock. Seven-ten am.
I went back to our office and began reviewing last night's work. I saw a couple of small errors that I had missed early on, but other than that, it looked pretty good. I picked up where I left off, and within a few minutes I was rolling again. I was on my second or third cup of coffee when I heard a familiar voice.
"Yoo-hoo! It's me again, handsome," Cindy called from the back door. I could almost hear the smile in her voice.
"Come on in, Cindy. Grab a coffee. I'm in my office."
I heard her open the cupboard and then the fridge and a moment or so later, she wandered into the office.
"My, my, aren't you the picture of elegance," she said sarcastically.
I was sitting in my normal nightwear; t-shirt and boxers. Happily, my fly wasn't open.
"Just because I haven't shaved, brushed my teeth, showered or dressed, is no reason to think I'm a slob," I shot back.
Cindy just laughed. "It's a good thing you're handsome, handsome. Whatcha workin' on?"
"Well, I'm am currently on page three of six, translating the instructions for the operation and maintenance of the Heavenly Blossom Model 356 K 14" thickness planer," I stated emphatically.
Cindy burst out laughing again. "Where do they get those goofy names from?"
I shrugged. "Don't know, don't care. However, this test drive is tougher than I thought. I spent five hours last night just getting the first page and a half done. I think I've figured out the lingo now, so it's going much quicker. I should have this finished by noon, and I can start on the French."
"And you're doing this for free?"
"Yeah. You sound like Judy," I said, giving her a stern look.
"Sorry. I take it she wasn't impressed."
"You could say that. However, what will matter to her are the results. In a day or so, I'll know if this is something I can do, and whether it's worth doing."
"Good luck. I have faith in you, Jake. I think you're going to surprise the shit out of Judy."
That was Cindy, for you. Always positive. Always upbeat. Always straight to the point.
We sat sipping our coffees for a couple of minutes before Cindy broke the silence.
"Jake, can I ask you a personal question?"
"Do you think you and Judy are happy? I mean, really happy?"
I sat for a moment, staring at my coffee cup, not answering the question.
"Never mind. It's none of my business. I'm sorry I asked," she said quietly.
"It is a damn good question, Cindy. A damn good one." I left it at that.
As I expected, I finished the English version about eleven-thirty and called Mr. Louie. I told him I'd have the French done this afternoon and I could drop it off to him at his office. He was surprised and pleased. He told me to come anytime I was ready and he would see me. That gave me a good feeling about this being important to him.
It had been a while since I had written any French, but with the help of my handy dictionary, and having lunch on the fly, I was able to get the French version completed by two-thirty pm. I went over the English version again, then the French once more. I didn't see any errors, but Mr. Louie would be the judge of that.
I dressed in my business clothes once more and headed off to his office to hand in my work. I sat in Mr. Louie's office as he looked over my English version, comparing it to the Chinese version he had beside it. I couldn't tell for sure, but I thought he was spot checking various random paragraphs. I could see him nodding and occasionally circling a word here or there, but basically, making few changes.
He looked up from my work. "Excellent, Mr. Jake. I will send your French and English versions to our translation service for verification. Assuming they approve your French, we have an agreement for your services."
He had called me "Mr. Jake" from the first meeting since trying to pronounce Phaltz was nearly impossible for him.
"How many hours did you spend on this?" he asked.
"Uhhhh ... five last night and six today. Eleven total," I said.
"Very well. I will have a cheque for six hundred-sixty dollars made out to you. You may pick it up tomorrow," he smiled.
"I thought we agreed that this was a free trial? A test to see if I could do the work."
"I am almost certain you can do the work, Mr. Jake. I would not take advantage of you. I will pay for good work. I think we can do very good business together."
"That's very generous. Thank you very much," I said sincerely.
"To what company should I make this cheque?" he asked.
"Uhmmm, why me, I guess. Jacob Phaltz."
He looked at me seriously for a moment. "May I suggest you incorporate yourself? Set up your business. It will save you much trouble in the future. Also, it will deflect liability if there is a problem. I suggest you see a lawyer and get this done. Keep this money separate. You do not want a tax problem. Especially if you become successful," he smiled. "I do not deduct taxes. You have to look after that. You are a contractor in the eyes of Revenue Canada."
"Thank you for the advice. I'll do just that." I rose and shook his hand.
"Please let me know if there is any problem with the French version," I said as I was about to leave.
"Do you not want your next assignment?" he asked, looking surprised.
"Uhmmm, well, yes, of course, if you're satisfied I can do the job," I stammered.
He smiled. "I am satisfied. I will be very surprised if your French version is not as good as your English. I must thank Miss Paula for telling you about me."
He passed me another manual and we walked out back once more. After reviewing the machine and comparing the drawings, I was satisfied it was a current drawing.
We shook hands and I left for home with a definite spring in my step. Sixty dollars an hour. If I worked a standard forty hour week, I would gross over $120,000 annually. Was there that much work available? The stack on Mr. Louie's sideboard looked pretty tall. I couldn't wait to tell Judy. Maybe this would change her opinion of my efforts.
It seemed to mollify Judy that I was being paid and that the rate was substantial. I told her about the stack of work on his desk waiting for my efforts. It seemed to cheer her up quite a bit as a matter of fact. She even decided tonight would be a good night to make love.
I really was feeling a lot better about my future and us. It's funny how quickly things can change from good to bad and back to good again. I also found myself wanting to tell Cindy as well. After all, she was the one who had sparked the idea.
I began work on the next manual the following morning. I was just as anxious to get started as I had been with the first one. This job turned out to be much easier. First, because the machine was more straightforward and mechanically simpler. And second, because I had the experience to figure out what they were trying to say. I finished the English by one that afternoon and the French before supper time. A total of eight hours. I would call Mr. Louie first thing in the morning and arrange to deliver my work.
That evening, I called my investment advisor, Carlo Ponetti, another ex-Montrealer.
"Carlo, I need your advice. I want to set up my own business and I need the name of a lawyer who can help me do that."
"Hey ... you're going into business for yourself?" His voice sounded like it was a happy surprise.
"Yeah. Translation services." I explained the job to him and he was enthusiastic.
"Every time I look at something it's made in China or somewhere in the far east. You'll never run out of business," he proclaimed.
"I hope you're right. Now ... about that contact."
"Yeah ... talk to Don Simmons. He's right here in this building. He specializes in business law and can get you set up properly with all the forms. You'll need to get in touch with Betty and sort out the tax situation. She already does your and Judy's taxes, so she'll know what to do about the new business."
"Thanks, Carlo. I appreciate your help. Maybe I'll have something to put in our retirement savings this year after all."
"Good luck, Jake. I have a feeling you're going to do very well in this venture. Us Montréal guys know how to make things happen, eh?"
"You know it, Carlo. Say hi to Monique for me. Talk to you later."
I called Mr. Louie the next morning and he was happy to hear from me. He told me that the French translation was right on and no changes were necessary. He was anxious to see my next project. I drove to his office later that morning and delivered the next manual.
"Mr. Louie, can we set up something so that I don't have to drive in every day. I can e-mail my translations to you, but maybe if I took a weeks-worth at a time, I could just grind away on them and send you the finished copy when it's done."
"That will be acceptable. Also, if you allow me, I will deposit your payments directly into your account. That way, I don't have to write a cheque and you get your money right away."
"That's great, but I have to set up an account for my business first. I'll let you know when that's done."
"Then we have an agreement. I am very happy to do business with you Mr. Jake. Do you want me to have a contract written for your services?"
"I thought about that. Why don't I talk to my business advisor and see what he thinks. I'll let you know."
"Very well." We shook hands and I left after reviewing five new manuals and five machines. It took a little over an hour, but it was a good investment of my time. One of the drawings had an omission and while it was for the correct machine, I needed to note the omission in my translation. Otherwise, it looked like five fairly straightforward jobs.
By the end of the next week, I had a new career and my own business established. I was calling it Precise Word Services; not terribly catchy, but explanatory. I had filed with the federal government for a G.S.T. (Goods and Services Tax) license number, and I had set up a separate bank account. I even had some business cards printed, and I designed a letterhead I could print on my own. On the advice of my new lawyer, I wrote a Letter of Understanding to Mr. Louie, outlining our agreement for translations from Precise Word Services, and the agreed hourly fee.
I splurged and bought a colour laser printer, keeping the receipt as a business expense. My tax advisor, Betty Jorgensen, gave me some advice on what was and was not legitimate business expense. I would pay close attention to that.
By Thursday morning of that week, I had already finished the five manuals and returned them and the translations to Mr. Louie. I picked up six more, reviewing the machines before leaving the premises. I was beginning to wonder just how many different machines he had and when we were going to run out of manuals. I had booked forty-six hours to Thursday and that made my income for the week almost four thousand dollars when I added Friday in. With the six new items, I would likely more than double that amount.
I was working like crazy in my home office. I don't think Judy saw much of me from the time she got up in the morning until she went to bed. I would come out for dinner and help with the dishes and we would talk about whatever there was to talk about, but I was pretty much invisible for the first few weeks.
Judy was curious. She had shifted from disdain for my efforts to curiosity as she saw how hard I was working. Naturally, she had some questions.
"How often do you get paid?" she asked.
"I get paid for each job I hand in. I'm a contractor. I get a set amount without any taxes or other expenses deducted. It's up to me to look after all the other stuff."
"I could use some help right now. Money's a bit tight since you lost your job," she said, testing the waters.
"OK. How much do you need?"
"Can you spare a thousand?"
"Uhmmm ... yeah ... I think so," I said carefully. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't anxious to share with Judy just how lucrative this new business was. I was pulling down almost three thousand a week, but that meant working fifty hour weeks. My new bank account was showing a balance of nearly fifteen thousand dollars. If Judy knew about that, she would quickly change her opinion of my efforts. But ... for some reason I can't explain, I had decided to be coy about it.
I electronically moved one thousand dollars from my business account into our joint chequing account and told Judy it had been looked after. She seemed a bit surprised, but at least pleased. I was too. I was back to contributing to the household and feeling good about myself again. I had only been out of work for two weeks, so I could hardly claim to have suffered before finding this new career.
I decided to have a meeting with Mr. Louie to see just where this new business was going to go. I had a concern that it would suddenly dry up and I would be back to square one again.
The upshot of the meeting was that he had much more complex machinery here and coming, and that meant much more complex translations. I was going to have many more hours of work ahead of me. I could relax. He was certain it would be a long time before we ran out of manuals.